House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Scarborough Southwest (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 24% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act September 20th, 2011

My apologies, Mr. Speaker. I will say the Prime Minister's government.

Bill C-4 would require the mandatory detention of designated persons without independent review. This is arbitrary detention, which is contrary to the charter and international law. Mandatory minimum sentences and harsher penalties will not deter smugglers. As of this time, under the Immigration and Refugee Act, smuggling can already be punishable by life imprisonment. This is just another blow to our independent judiciary and its discretion.

Furthermore, refugees know little or nothing about this country other than its reputation for acceptance and generosity. They are fleeing for their lives and the lives and safety of their families. They know nothing of our laws and we want to punish them for that. Among those detained will be children. It is 2011 and we here in Canada are talking about detaining children. There is something absolutely reprehensible and wrong about that fact.

This bill would also provide for mandatory conditions to be imposed on release for persons indefinitely detained beyond 12 months without the possibility of release if the minister is of the opinion that their identities have not been established. Both of those additional measures would deprive persons of liberty without the opportunity for an independent tribunal to review whether they are necessary in the individual case or not, again contrary to the charter and international law.

We heard members speak earlier about Australia, which has had similar policies to lock up refugee claimants in the past at length and to deny them permanent status even when granted refugee status in an effort to stop refugees coming by boat. These policies resulted in refugees, including many children, being traumatized by their experiences in detention. The Australian Human Rights Commission, an organization created by parliament, conducted a national inquiry into children in immigration detention and found that children in Australian immigration detention centres had suffered numerous and repeated breaches of their human rights.

Far from deterring people, depriving refugees of the right to family reunification caused a situation where people arrived by boat and then later their families, spouses and children arrived by more boats. This, in fact, created a market for more human smuggling, and this is the path that the government is taking.

The Australian public was deeply divided, with many previously unengaged citizens joining grassroots networks to protest their country's inhumane treatment of refugees. Luckily, in the past three years Australia has been moving away from the policies of detention and temporary status for refugees. However, here in Canada we apparently like to repeat others' mistakes.

Arbitrary detention is also prohibited by international law, notably by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Furthermore, this bill would deny designated persons the right to appeal a negative refugee decision to the Immigration and Refugee Board's Refugee Appeal Division. An appeal is a fundamental right and safeguard in refugee decision making, where a person's life and liberty may be at stake. By eliminating the opportunity to correct errors at this first level, the bill would put Canada at risk of violating its most fundamental obligation toward refugees, which is not to send them back to persecution.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act September 20th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise today after the passionate speeches of my dear colleagues on this side of the House, especially the members for Scarborough—Rouge River and La Pointe-de-l'Île. I am certain that my fellow Canadians thank them as well.

I am also a member for Scarborough, and I can say that half of my constituents were born somewhere other than Canada. If this kind of legislation had existed in the past, there would be a lot of people missing from my riding, as well as some members missing from the House, for example, the member for York South—Weston. The government is lacking a little common sense in introducing this bill.

I am saddened to see our Conservative colleagues from Scarborough also supporting this legislation that will negatively affect the families of their constituents. We would encourage them to join the rest of Scarborough in opposing this bad bill.

The bill is deeply unfair to refugees. It fails to honour the obligations under both Canadian and international law. It deprives individual cases of the independent review that justice requires. Furthermore, it will create massive costs in unnecessary detention. If it passes, this bill would prove to be unsuccessful in preventing human smuggling. We have seen time and again that more laws do little to prevent crimes like this from happening. We cannot solve a problem merely by addressing the effect and ignoring the cause. This bill ignores the underlying problem that we face a global refugee crisis.

I would like to draw attention to the fact that the title of this bill is gravely misleading, as it would do more to punish refugees than to punish smugglers. It is wildly unfair to label the refugee crisis as a threat to the safety of Canadians. Canadians are being asked to trade the liberties of people seeking refuge in exchange for the protection of Canadian safety from a perceived threat that has no basis.

We must act within our power to stop illegal human smuggling. Yes, profiting from human trafficking of vulnerable refugees is exceptionally immoral and we want to do everything we can to deter that from happening, but let us find ways of targeting those who are committing the crime rather than the victims. Refugees do not pose a threat to Canadian public safety. This is just another example of the Conservatives' scare tactics and fearmongering.

The Conservatives are trying to sell this bill as if accepting and aiding refugees is a threat to Canadians. It's that “with us or against us”, that “us or them” mentality. These tactics are hostile, irresponsible and dangerous. They have no place in the government of Canada, but we know it is how the Harper government works.

Bill C-4 requires mandatory detention of designated persons without independent review--

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, it is nice to hear a member opposite finally acknowledge how respectful union members and leaders are.

Were it not for the Conservative government and for Canada Post and the Minister of Labour locking the workers out, they would still be doing their jobs.

I also spoke to many managers at the postal sorting stations, people who are not protected by the union. They are all behind the union members. They know if the members get a better deal, they will have better job protection. I will not mention their names because they are fearful for their jobs. They are not protected by a union.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

There would not be enough money if all the letter carriers were paid as much as Canada Post's CEO. We might agree that the latter should perhaps not be paid until he negotiates a collective agreement that is fair for all employees.

It is unconscionable that people are making insane amounts of money when compared to the workers who are doing all the work.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, it is true the workers at Canada Post are happy with their jobs by and large. That is why they want to go back to work. Why will the government not unlock the doors?

More importantly, with respect to all the people who would like jobs like those, the government has been negligent over the last five years in not creating those well-paying jobs so people can get them and support their families.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I will comment on the previous member's comment about how one in three people in his community need help from the United Way. That certainly sounds like a prosperous community where so many people are still in need. If we do not stand up here to defend worker's rights, that will be two out of three and eventually three out of three. That is why we are here today and that is why none of us will go home until we can reach an equitable and fair solution.

We must always remember that any kind of negotiation between employees and their employer, whether they are involved in this kind of dispute where the employer has locked out its workers, is about the real lives of Canadians, their quality of life and the lives of their families.

My riding contains one of the largest postal sorting stations in Canada and I have been hearing from many of the workers, both at the plant and at other stations across the eastern GTA. All of these workers have spoken to me simply about fairness.

I have a lot of respect for the men and women across Canada who are responsible for delivering our mail. These very same people who, during the labour dispute, vowed to guarantee the delivery of social assistance and old age security cheques, are the people who offered to end strike action if Canada Post would simply agree to keep the old contract in force during negotiations. That is a pretty reasonable stand to take. However, Canada Post refused.

These are the kinds of people who make up the workforce at Canada Post: people who want fairness so they can support their families, pay their own bills, work in a safe environment and retire with dignity, which is a right that should exist for all Canadians, real Canadians doing a real job for all Canadians.

One of my constituents who is a postal worker summed up the attitude of the workers being locked out by Canada Post and now being forced back to work with this legislation. She wrote to me and said, “Remember, we want to work, we want to deliver, we love our jobs and we take pride in our jobs”. This debate is not just about mail. It is about workers' rights to fairness and collective bargaining, and, for many years, Canadians have fought hard for fairness in the workplace.

In my own family, we have a long tradition of fighting for workers' rights dating back to my great-grandfather who served in both world wars and was a plasterer by trade. He understood that working conditions improve only when people stand up and fight for them. This struggle continued with my grandmother and my grandfather who met and fell in love while working together to improve the lives and conditions in their own workplace. My father was a teacher and an active member of Elementary Teachers of Toronto, and I am proud to carry on that mantle.

It is easier to understand the need for fairness when we talk to the workers on the front line. Michael Duquette, president of Local 602 of CUPW which represents over 2,000 workers in Scarborough and the eastern GTA, has been very generous with his time keeping me apprised of the concerns of his members.

Amother member of the executive board of Local 602 sent me an email detailing some of the unpleasant things Canada Post has done to its employees since CUPW first gave its 72-hour notice to strike on May 31. I would like to share a few of those stories.

One employee, a motorized service courier, was off work on a work-related back injury. As soon as the 72-hour notice was given, his health benefits and sick leave were terminated by Canada Post. At that point, it was discovered that he had a cancerous growth. Now he has no sick leave, no benefits, no income and must apply for employment insurance.

One employee who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy was stunned to find out that his benefits were cut off as of May 31. Now he has to pay for his own treatment. This violates the collective agreement and it is inhumane. Of course, he can go through the grieving process, but who, when dying of a terminal disease, would put off treatment to await the outcome of a grievance procedure?

Another motorized service courier who was off work on WSIB-approved leave at the time the 72-hour notice was given, received his pay statement which said that he had received a full paycheque. However, when he went to pay some of his bills he was denied for being overdrawn. At this point, he discovered that Canada Post had only paid him one-third of his total pay, despite that his paycheque said that he was paid in full. I wonder what kind of games are going on there.

Imagine people who are off work on a work-related injury or on sick leave with cancer or leukemia being cut, and finding out that not only do they have no benefits but also no money, even though a pay stub was received in the mail saying they had received the full funds. In the federal sector we have the unfortunate record of having the second highest injury rate next to longshoremen. Now the corporation wants the members of CUPW to give up the top-ups to WSIB. It wants members to accept substandard short-term disability. This is unconscionable.

Canada Post is also trying to take credit for initializing the government cheque delivery program which I referred to earlier, which took place on June 20. This is something which the union had to doggedly pursue in order to get the corporation on board, and then the corporation took credit for it.

The CUPW member I referred to earlier, wanted me to know that the support from the public has been very positive. She wrote, “While on the picket lines outside our facility, members of the public and other businesses dropped off food, hamburgers, hot dogs, cases of water and pop, giant containers of firewood. Even Tim Hortons came over and gave everyone $2 Tim Hortons cards. Vehicles were driving by and honking their horns at all hours of the day and night in support. They also had, in Pickering, numerous people bringing ice cream in the heat. Even McDonald's came by and brought cases of water and ice”.

It seems they are losing support on all sides and they should be aware of that.

People old and young have approached the CUPW member offering their support. They understand this is not just an attack on the workers of Canada Post, but it is an attack on all Canadians and their rights as citizens. People are appalled at the fact that Canada Post would lock out its workforce and then would collaborate with the government on legislation to force the workers back to work with a worse settlement than the corporation was willing to offer at the bargaining table. Also, the corporation is preventing them from going back to work by not unlocking the doors.

These are real stories from real people. They are the people being affected by this draconian back to work legislation the Conservative government is trying to ram through this House and which all of us on this side are proud to oppose.

I fear that the government is out of touch with real people. I fear it does not understand the effect its legislation will have on working people. I also fear, like others here, that this is just the beginning, that we will see further legislation from the government that will hurt working families in the country, making it harder for them to make ends meet and to live with the dignity and security for which they have worked and deserve.

It is important to remember that it was the management at Canada Post that decided to lock out the workers and shut down the mail service.

Citizenship and Immigration June 23rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, 34 immigrant settlement agencies have lost their funding after $43 million was cut. It hits places like Toronto and Scarborough the hardest where 80,000 new Canadians are hurt by these service cuts.

These cuts come at a time when Toronto schools are also cutting settlement staff, further eroding available services. Both the House and the immigration committee have voted to reverse these funding cuts, but Conservatives have ignored this.

Why is the government putting up barriers to the integration of immigrants into Canadian society and our economy?

Bill Hussey June 14th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the people of Scarborough Southwest lost a true hero last week with the passing of World War II veteran, Bill Hussey.

Mr. Hussey volunteered for many years, helping first and second graders learn to read at Courcelette Public School. Every student who attended the school over the last 30 years knew Mr. Hussey and were so fond of him that they dedicated a playground to him at the school in 2004.

Every year on Remembrance Day, Mr. Hussey would proudly wear his medals and his poppy and help the children pay tribute to Canada's veterans and fallen heroes. He served in the special forces in World War II, once parachuting behind enemy lines in Italy. He would often share his memories of the war with the children and staff at the school.

Mr. Hussey was a kind, caring and gentle man who everyone knew as “Smiley”. Mostly he was a legend to the staff and students of Courcelette Public School, and we in Scarborough Southwest will truly miss our hero.

Conservative Government June 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am truly honoured and humbled by the confidence shown in me by the voters of Scarborough Southwest by electing me as their representative in the House of Commons.

In stark contrast to the Conservative government, I intend to represent all the people of Scarborough Southwest. I intend to use my time in this chamber to pressure the government to work for all Canadians struggling to make ends meet and to live with security and dignity.

The Conservatives have missed a chance to work for all Canadians, including the millions who did not vote for them. They have missed the opportunity to make life more affordable, to lift seniors out of poverty and provide new Canadians with adequate settlement services.

The intense personal stories I have heard from my constituents will motivate me in my work as their MP. Voters in Scarborough Southwest voted for change, and I intend to voice that message at every opportunity.